Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in babies

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs in the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, bladder and urethra. The urethra is the tube that runs down from your baby’s bladder to her genitals.

An infection can happen when bacteria sneaks into the urethra from the skin around your baby’s bottom and genitals. The bacteria can cause inflammation at any point along the tract.

How will I know if my baby has a UTI?

It can be difficult to tell if a baby has a UTI. If your baby is unwell with any of the following it could mean she has a UTI:

  • fever
  • vomiting
  • sleepy and lethargic
  • irritable
  • not feeding well
  • not gaining weight properly
  • jaundice
  • blood in her urine
  • unpleasant-smelling urine

If your baby is older and potty trained, she may need to pee a lot and it may be painful when she does. She may also hold onto it if it hurts to pee, and she may complain of a tummy ache.

Should I take my baby to the doctor?

It’s important to take your baby to your doctor if you think she has a UTI. If her infection is left untreated for a long time, it could move to the kidneys and cause problems.

If your baby has signs of a UTI, your doctor may need to collect a sterile urine sample to find out what bacteria is causing it. Your doctor may insert a catheter (small tube) into the urethra and up to the bladder to collect a sample. If your baby is not very sick, your doctor may tape a small bag around your baby’s genitals. This can be done by you at home or at your doctor’s office. The bag collection method is not as reliable as the catheter, so if the suspicion for urinary tract infection is high, your baby will need to have the infection confirmed using a catheter. If your baby is older and potty trained, she may be able to pee directly into a sterile container.

If your baby has been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, she will need to have a renal ultrasound. The ultrasound will check how her kidneys and bladder are working, and look out for other possible problems. If your baby has more than one urinary tract infections, she may need additional tests to help monitor the health of her kidneys.

How can my baby’s UTI be treated?

If your baby is looking sick, is under 2 months of age, or will not take medications by mouth, your doctor will treat her in hospital with antibiotics by intravenous drip. Otherwise, your doctor will prescribe your baby a course of antibiotics to take at home for seven to 14 days. Your baby’s UTI should clear up one to two days after treatment starts. Make sure your baby finishes the course of antibiotics even if she seems better.

Is there anything I can do to prevent my baby getting a UTI?

Some babies are more prone to UTIs, but there are a few things you can do to help prevent her getting one:

  • Wipe your baby’s bottom from front to back when you change her diaper.
  • Change her diaper as soon as she’s passed stool.
  • Make sure your baby gets plenty of fluids to help flush bacteria out of her system.
  • If your baby is potty trained, teach her to wipe her bottom from front to back, and encourage her to go to the toilet regularly.

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